The curated life

The curator of a museum is responsible for the content of the museum’s displays.  They acquire permanent additions, they arrange for temporary exhibits, they generally set it up so that the museum receives the maximum possible amount of positive attention.  “That place is amazing!” would-be attendees say to one another.  “We absolutely have to go there!”

The plumbing problems, the mounting debt, the personality flaws of the artists — those are not to be put on display.  These negative traits of the museum are every bit as real, perhaps even more so, than the positive ones.  But they stay hidden from the public if the curator has anything to say about it.

Social media has been described as a way of “curating” our lives.  We put on display only those aspects that we wish to show.  Generally that means all good news, all the time — pictures of our dinner, or of the family at the amusement park.  That sort of thing.  “My life is great!  Don’t you wish you were me?” is the general idea.  Or perhaps a bit of wisdom or humor we tracked down on the internet — which, presumably, prove that we ourselves are wise or humorous.  Occasionally we may post a vague request for emotional support — “Can’t get into it now, but I need your prayers,” “Feeling especially glum today,” “New shoes, what do you think?”, etc.  But let’s be honest; those tend very strongly to be more in the “begging for compliments” category and less in the “I am weak and I need help” category; after all, if we really needed help, we would actually talk about our problems.

Actually, “talk about our problems” is another example of the same phenomenon.  Sometimes we can’t seem to talk about anything else.  But I would venture to say, in at least 90 percent of these cases the “problems” in question are not our fault; they are topics of conversation mostly to generate pity or place blame.  It’s the same principle, really — allowing people to see the part of our lives that we are willing to expose — and absolutely nothing else.

But that is not how we build relationships.  That is how we build walls.

The Bible tells Christians, “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16).  The prayers of righteous brethren “can accomplish much,” as the text goes on to read, because we have created real and lasting bonds.  They know our weaknesses, so they can minister to us in our weaknesses.  Hiding our weaknesses may make us feel secure in the short term, but what they really do is prohibit our spiritual family from doing its job — and hindering our own ability to grow and mature.

The curated life is all about appearances.  We want to act like everything is wonderful — especially when it isn’t.  The vulnerable life is all about realities.  We are in constant need of assistance, and we want to make ourselves available to the ones most willing and able to offer it.

That is not to say you should take to Facebook and begin confessing every character flaw in front of the whole world.  But perhaps privately admitting our frailties and weaknesses to a trusted brother or sister in Christ would not be the worst idea in the world. 

 

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Perspective

From a distance, my lawn looks great.  Up close, my lawn looks terrible.  Both perspectives are unfair, I think.  It is self-serving and lazy to imagine that a quick glance from the street is how best to measure the quality of my work.  It is self-defeating and depressing to hover over each blade of grass (or weed, or dead spot) and wonder what I did so horribly wrong as to bring on this tragedy.

Perspective makes all the difference.  You’re either a hero or a goat, a genius or an idiot.  Both perspectives are true, and both are lies.

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